After ‘Chucking the Ropes’, ‘The Rope Trick’ and ‘Getting Rid of Knots’, for this blogpost, let’s imagine a new rope. Think of a new story, waiting to be braided, silk or wool. Imagine the length of a thick strong cord, or twisted together strands of similar material. What’s the color? Where does it belong? How will it be woven?
In flash fiction, the weaving takes precedence over a lot of other things. The words need to be bound in warps and wefts, woven so it is blameless, taut. Have you failed to notice the weave because they’re hardly visible in the great works?
After you’ve decided on the plot, setting and character, it is the style that’ll separate the great one from other good submissions in a litmag’s slush pile. I’ve always been drawn to how the ordinary can be expressed extraordinarily, and how really gifted writers do it. For me, as I’m sure other new writers, it’s always that rush, that lightning strike (idea) that must be put down on paper as soon as possible, that decision that the piece is supposedly good enough to go, which prevents us to think in a way that’ll make our story stand-out because of its style!
The distinctiveness of a story is hard to get right. Consider this piece by Jude Higgins in Ellipsiszine. See how it blends a modern situation with lines like this one: “For the man next door sayeth our grubby vehicle and lack of maintenance despoil the neighbourhood.” A simple story is elevated several notches by the skilful use of archaic words.
Maybe this story of mine, published by Reflex Fiction. I remember it took a month to get it right since I wanted each sentence to start with a word beginning with ‘D’. I also wanted it to be rhythmic. Finally, my creative mind insisted on ending with a quote I had been drawn to at that time! I believe this ordinary story of a boy, who escapes home to join the circus, managed to be among the top stories in the Winter 2020 Reflex Contest (out of 750 entries) because of its structure.
What exactly one may be aiming at for the reader to experience? It could be taste, color, or only the associated paraphernalia of it built into a story. Like Tara Campbell’s story, “Angels and Blueberries” or “Y” by Rachael Smart in Spelk Fiction. The stories explore the colors blue and yellow respectively. The reader is lead into wonderous worlds, but only populated with a single color.
Seamlessly mixing style into a story is like embroidery. I’ve loved flash fiction with particular attention to sound, sight, taste, and of course, the nuances of touch. I’d love to read more where the sense of smell is called upon through words. I think that’d require huge mastery. If you can think of flash fiction entirely about odors, fragrances or the like, please share links.